First posted on 6 March 2012
Yesterday………………… “We walked on. He hit the next pole more gently; we listened to the musical tone that resulted from the blow and I reproduce the musical note with my vocal chords. By the time we returned home Bill’s wrist was swollen and we had arrived singing a melody made of the notes that had erupted from the vibrating light poles that my pole playing son had produced with his pole bat.
On the next walk we sang that melody until memorized and eventually created a silly set of lyrics; no need for ASCAP membership yet but it was a lot of fun. Tomorrow I will tell you a story that I will entitle Humongous.”
One year later: My son Bill and I were on our first walk of the season. We had determined that since winter had left us and since we were tired of working out at School gyms that we should walk all the way to downtown Phoenix and back. On our way we began to make up words. Inspired by my son’s growing love of salty linguistics, we decided that it might be a good idea to create some more acceptable replacements. “Pistalvistard”, volunteered my suddenly inspired offspring. “Oynt-never-never”, I replied.
“Humbug”, said Bill and I reminded him that we had agreed to create new words. “Fungus”, he blurted with a sureness about his demeanor that dared me to challenge him.
“You didn’t make that up”, I declared.
“Sure I did. This isn’t the fungus that grows on old bread. This is Fungus as in Fungus Amongus.” He pronounced both Gs. I thought that this was a great word but that it didn’t qualify. Humungus. I asked him what Humungus meant and he laughed and said that it meant a really big bungus. We laughed and laughed and laughed.
And suddenly I had an inspiration. Over the next week we would do two things. We would ask everyone we met if they had ever heard this word and we’d write down the names of each person that we asked.
A week later we met on the patio before our walk and tallied the results. No one had ever heard of Humongous. Bill had spoken with 123 people. I had spoken with 72. We multiplied the total of 195 times 52 weeks and squared the answer to determine how many people would have an opportunity to hear this new word in one year. With 10 million exposures we would surely hear this word within a year or two. We were stunned to discover that it was only a matter of weeks before we heard this word from the lips of a stranger and in less than a year we heard it on KDKB. There eventually came a time when Humungous was more popular than the F bomb that was rapidly infecting the vocabularies of children, eliminating the need for substitutes.
Did you notice the various ways I spelled Humoungus?
It really is a word these days. It is in the Merriam Webster Dictionary spelled Humongous.
And yes I know. Bill and I are not the only declared originators of Humongous. That wasn’t why we did it. We simply wondered how long it would take to spread. That was valuable information in those days. But today? There are more bloggers in the world than there were people in our hoped-for audience. So, from now on I’m not standing in line for a new truth. It’ll be obsolete in the blink of an eye. Just point me to the next thing and ask me to do it.